Most current social and cultural theory asserts that any form of social reality is not natural, adhering to an internal logic, but that it is constructed by human beings or what is termed human agency. The tools and motivations for any given construction of reality vary based on prevailing conditions or circumstance. Depending on a person's method of analysis, an analyst's citation of the elements involved in a particular act of social construction might be sorted out in terms of a hierarchy of importance (such as ideology, social class, and gender) or they might be brought together as being equally significant and interconnected forces. With these points in mind--what is social reality and how individuals exist in relation to it, the author discusses some recurring ideas related to empire. The focus on the philosophical underpinnings of empire is important in the author's examination of selected contemporary American war movies. The author emphasizes the gap between state ideology, referring to the so-called ideals of civilization that are intrinsic to empire building, and the vicious, unredemptive experience of soldiers in the battlefield. In an attempt to reconstruct imaginatively, from the point of view of soldiers, the experience of being in battle during World War 2 and the Vietnam War, the author cites "The Thin Red Line," "Full Metal Jacket," "The Deer Hunter," and "Apocalypse Now," and focuses on some of the master themes of empire recurrent in these films. In such war movies, contends this author, the ideals of empire, embodied in nationalism and patriotism, exist in opposition to or are part of the contradictions of the emotional states and beliefs of the young men engaged in violent, death-inducing activity.